I’ve just finished watching QI on BBC 2. One of my favourite TV shows that rarely fails to impress. I had to write a little something after this particular episode, as it was bizarre and not that good. If you’ve not seen it this week, but plan to, maybe give this post a miss. Wouldn’t want to spoil it for anyone. Let me just reiterate, I am a massive fan of this programme, and watch it most weeks. I’m not pouncing on this one bad episode, I just wanted to mention a few things I noticed.
The show started as always with Stephen Fry’s classic multi “good evening” intro. This even was slightly more subdued for some reason. Right away I was sceptical about the episode, when upon introducing the guests, Stephen greeted Nina Conti. Now whenever I don’t recognise a guest on QI alarm bells sound. They seem to have the weirdest quirk of finding complete randoms, that don’t add anything to the show, and are rarely seen again. Nina was a ventriloquist, sporting a puppet called Nan on her right arm. The fact that she was a ventriloquist didn’t fill me with confidence either, and I had no idea what one might be doing on QI. The rest of the panel was made up by Bill Bailey (sporting a very fine Naruto t-shirt) Sean Lock, and of course Alan Davies. A cracking line-up even with the inexplicable inclusion of Nina and “Nan.”
As the episode got going it was clear they tried to give the ventriloquist as much screen time as they could. Setting up jokes and gags that fell flat as a pancake. The audience seemed as puzzled as I, at what this lady was doing on the QI panel. As the show moved on it came across to me that Sean Lock was not in the mood to be on the show at all. He gave a few quips and one-liners, but didn’t run away with comedic rants and vollys as he normally does. He did everything he could to not interact with the puppet or Nina in any way, a fact that made me think he slightly resented her presence or inclusion.
Nina herself was a terrific ventriloquist, and was someone deserving of airtime and promotion. Her skills are undoubted, and her performance with “Nan” was as good an act as I’ve seen recently. She was also a magnificently beautiful woman, with such a lovely speaking voice. The Nan character was alright, a bit clichéd and not the best puppet, but Nina’s vocal work was great. I just don’t think it was the right fit at all for the programme. The guests didn’t want to interact at all with puppet or ventriloquist (except Bill Bailey who tried his best to get something out of the situation), and while Stephen did try to direct questions to “Nan” they were half hearted to say the least. I really hope this appearance doesn’tdamage Nina’s career aspirations. She didn’t get many laughs out of an audience who clearly wanted to like her. In short, this was a booking mistake, and another example why QI should stick to its regulars.
Other happenings from the show included Bill breaking his buzzer after a spirited performance with his very own puppet. Questions about Dinosaur sex, and a blatantly placed section about ventriloquism that was largely ignored and talked over by everyone. A highlight was Stephen Fry using the phrase “pussyhound” which was unexpected and hilarious. Something also happened off camera and was not explained that has Bill Bailey in stitches at one point (always nice to see a comic having a laugh).
All in all it was a disappointing episode, but still generated laughs in places. Predictably Nina Conti won the quiz, being the new guest. But even though she won the points, I don’t think she won any fans with this performance. I really hope we’ll see her again in a more suitable environment. As for QI. I am eagerly awaiting next week’s show, and look forward to seeing the guests and enjoying the terrific format.
Stephen Fry, Alan Davies and the whole team do a superb job on the show, and I want to end this (slightly negative) piece with a hearty cheer for a magnificent programme. Long may it continue to delight.